Video of a Harvard doctor has gone viral after she called the popular fat "pure poison."

Zee Krstic
August 23, 2018

Coconut oil once enjoyed a nearly ubiquitous status as a "superfood" when, a half-dozen years back some health professionals touted the oil as a superior weight loss tool and a naturally immune-boosting agent, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Some nutrition experts, however (including our nutritionists) have been critical of the supposed superfood for it's overwhelming saturated fat content. And in 2017 the American Heart Association weighed in, asking home cooks to avoid ingesting the fat.

That debate is ablaze once more after Dr. Karin Michels, an adjunct professor at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, recently took to a public stage and told an audience that coconut oil is "pure poison."

Michels, who is also the director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg in Germany, gave a speech in German titled "Coconut oil and other nutritional errors." A video of the speech went viral, garnering more than 1 million views, after Business Insider translated it into English.

"I can only warn you urgently about coconut oil," she tells the crowd. "This is one of the worst foods you can eat."

Michels' main issue with coconut oil—and ours—is that more than 80 percent of the fats in the oil are saturated fatty acids, according to the American Heart Association. For comparison, butter is 63 percent saturated fat, and pure lard is only 39 percent saturated.

All of these foods raise LDL cholesterol, known as the "bad" cholesterol, which can quite literally clog arteries.

Getty: Russ Rohde

As more and more health professionals have questioned the benefits over the years, sales of coconut oil have plummeted by 30 percent from a peak of nearly $230 million in 2015.

Looking for healthy oils to cook with? Try these:

While sales data suggests that fewer people are buying coconut oil, many home cooks still believe in the health benefits of the highly saturated fat. After Cooking Light initially reported on coconut oil's poor sales performance, some readers were seemingly confused or outraged to hear the news—so much so that our director of nutrition took the time to explain why coconut oil isn't as healthy as many people believe it to be.

And many people still believe that coconut oil is a better-for-you choice: CNN reports that a 2016 study found that 72 percent of all Americans believed coconut oil was a healthy item, whereas only 37 percent of certified nutritionists held the same belief.

As the health industry shifts its position on saturated fats to better educate consumers—the World Health Organization is the among the latest to revise their stance on saturated fat consumption—the debate on whether we should be using coconut oil will rage on. For now, just like many other foods that are not the best choices for your dietary intake, our editors and team of nutritionists remain firm: enjoy coconut oil in light moderation at your own discretion.

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